We very nearly didn’t get to Rome.
Not because Mr R refused to get on the plane -he hadn’t flown for thirty years and it had taken a lot of gentle persuasion to reassure him that the chances of plummeting to earth were teeny tiny slim- but because we were too busy enjoying a glass of vino in Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food restaurant in Heathrow’s terminal five and not keeping a beady eye on the departure board. You know you’ve got your timings wrong when you arrive at an empty departure gate and the gate staff know who you are before you even show them your boarding pass. At least being almost pushed onto the plane meant that my beloved had no choice but to get on, especially when you are told by the lovely British Airways staff that they would sooner knock him unconscious and wheel him on the plane rather than miss their slot by having to off load our luggage.
So we got there. The plane didn’t lose a wing, engine, pilots or collide with another plane on the way and Mr R announced that he really didn’t know what all the fuss was all about. Hallelujah, about time too!
Knowing that our hotel was somewhere in a warren of cobbled back streets close to the Forum and not relishing trying to find our way there on a dark late October evening, I wisely arranged a limousine transfer from the airport when I booked the hotel. I would absolutely recommend doing this if you can. To be met at the airport and then whisked away and dropped off at the hotel is a bit of a luxury but it was fifty euros very well spent and is a stress free way of arriving at your hotel, although we did wonder if we would get there in one piece. It was a case of holding on for or dear lives as our driver confused the duel highway into the city with a formula 1 race track. . We did wonder at one point if we were kidnap victims when our driver swerved off the main road and onto a dimly lit lane. Were we going to be bundled out of the car and forced into the boot of another and was our Roman adventure about to go horribly wrong? Who on earth would pay a ransom for a middle-aged couple who wore anoraks and came from Swindon?
By some miracle, we got to our hotel in one piece. The lane had turned out to be a short cut and we carried on into the city oohing and aahing as we passed flood lit monuments and ancient columns and felt a little disappointed when we thought what we were driving past a rather underwhelming Colosseum but later found out that it was just one of hundreds of Roman ruins.
I simply must tell you about our fabulous hotel Hotel Nerva located opposite the Imperial Forum and only a ten minute walk to the Collosseum. I chose the hotel after spotting it in a ten places to stay in Rome article. I wanted a hotel that was small, stylish, in a great area, within our budget and had brilliant reviews. The Nerva fitted the bill perfectly and when we walked through the door we knew instantly that we had made the right choice. The nineteen rooms, including four suites are all tastefully furnished with pops of colour, houndstooth covered headboards, stylish ceramic lights and beautiful books on Roman art line the walls instead of pictures. The beds are huge and super comfortable and the pillows are as soft and billowy as clouds guaranteeing a wonderful night’s sleep. Our bathroom was small, but the marble lined shower was roomy and powerful enough to make sure you were wide awake in the morning and ready to explore. There is a small but pretty breakfast room cum bar overlooking the street where they serve complimentary afternoon coffee, tea and cakes every late afternoon. Perfect after a busy day exploring the city. We loved the hotel and it’s staff and would stay there again in a flash.
The very friendly man at the front desk who checked us in gave us a map and pointed out how to get to the main big sites. He also gave us a list of recommended places to eat which was really useful. Waiting in our room was a bottle of prosecco and strawberries that I’d arranged as a surprise for Mr R as this trip was to celebrate his big birthday. We were itching to go and see the Colosseum so downed the fizz much faster than we would normally and popped our coats back on and off we went. We had taken the lift to the second floor but decided to take the stairs down. Boy, those stairs were steep. Mr R literally bounded down them whilst I clung gingerly to the handrail and went down each step at a snail’s pace. Lesson to self, do not knock back half a bottle of prosecco and try to descend a vertiginous staircase!
Seeing the Colosseum for the first time was one of those very special wow moments when you see something quite spectacular. It’s smaller than I imagined. It looked much bigger in Gladiator. But here was this amazing majestic building that was commissioned in AD72 standing a few feet away from us. Everyone knows the Colosseum and here we were seeing it for real. We gazed up at the arches taking in this wonderful iconic example of ancient architecture and looked forward to what wonders we would see in the days ahead.
We were finally in Rome, the Eternal City, and we had started our Roman adventure.